Erik Honoré - Heliographs - 13 April 2015, Paris


posted by on in Concert Reviews Print  

SCORE: 3 HUZZAH!*
The live performance of Heliographs is really different to the recorded version. Molvær's lyrical lines offer a late-in-the-night feel, while Zach's twisted percussions and Aarset's whole range of textures also throw back again the improvisational process that was an integral part of the construction of the sound in the originals. It is perfectly executed throughout and gives new life to this ever-lasting music.


Photo Credit: Michal Hradecký


 

I love these skies of early spring. They fluctuate rapidly, but without you necessarily noticing it; the shapes move seamlessly under the evenly luminous sun that fills the atmosphere and imprint some of them on the retina, depending on the cutting of the roofs, the direction of the streets, the height of the treetops. There is no such thing as silence or emptiness, but then this vacuity of meaning and motivation might lead you not to think any more, just feel.

 

Erik Honoré's Heliographs, one of my favourite records from last year, is such skies for me. It contains 9 tracks, mostly instrumental, each one with a very strong atmosphere, suspended but still full of shades, weird in that respect that they are absolutely linear and still completely granulated by their numerous details, with all sort of sounds coming and going inside and outside the picture. Heliographs, as the narrator of Erik Honoré's first novel Orakelveggen (from 2002) recalls in the first pages, was the first name for photographs. It is thus possible to understand the album that way: each track captures the complexity and multiple layers of a particular instant, gives it a temporal dimension, stretching its components to express the scene in which life was able to be experienced so sharply, giving room to the different rhythms at work through the extensive use of sampling that mixes Honoré's expressive vision with those of the musicians he "rips off" (in a transparent and creative way). It is absolutely wonderful. And, it is given live performance tonight, during a 3-days of Punkt Festival at La Dynamo de Banlieues Bleues, just outside Paris.

 

The setting is rather expensive, if anything. Nils Petter Molvær on trumpet, Eivind Aarset on guitar and Ingar Zach on percussions are here to help Erik Honoré shape his vision and amplify its dynamics. As he will tell me after the show, Norway is a small country and you get to know everyone from the music scene rather fast, which probably helped him to create, with fellow Jan Bang, the Punkt Festival of live remix in their home city ofKristiansand ten years ago. Something truly interesting indeed has been happening since – at least – the beginning of the new century (Christian Fennesz' Endless Summer from 2001 might be a milestone), in the crossover between the codes of popular music and the ambient and improvised music aesthetics, leading to a kind of reinvention of the former's very simplistic and/or melodic music through an attention to the materiality of the sound – that sounds like nothing else really, and Punkt has been a central place for that ever since. It is no coincidence that someone like the aforementioned Christian Fennesz performs regularly in Kristiansand, and is here in Paris too, where he will play during the third night. And it is no coincidence that all these musicians have worked with David Sylvian, maybe a symbol of this whole approach, coming more specifically from pop-music before going these years into more experimenting territories (and performing regularly at Punkt too).

 

The live performance of Heliographs is really different to the recorded version. It is a long, 30-minutes more or less, single piece of music, where the songs from the album drift in and out, taking shape and then disappearing without any apparent reason nor thematic break. Some parts are recognizable (the stunning soundscape from "Navigators” which appears a few minutes in, the repetitive motif of "Pioneer trail”), others not to my ears, whether because they are transitional between two songs, more likely – as it doesn't seem appropriate to separate the tracks – because it is all part of a long stream of music alternating distinctive melodic pieces with more ambient ones, maybe already present on the record although in a different sound setting. The musicians complete really well the sound coming from Honoré's laptop by giving it a more immediate human playing. Molvær's lyrical lines offer a late-in-the-night feel, while Zach's twisted percussions and Aarset's whole range of textures also throw back again the improvisational process that was an integral part of the construction of the sound in the originals. It is perfectly executed throughout and gives new life to this ever-lasting music. It feels like there is the foreground of the improvising musicians against the background of Honoré's pre-recorded sounds, even if it is not easy to assume what part of it is actually played and if there is improvisation from his part too.

 

In addition, it is heavier than on the record (which is a good thing), with dazzling bass here or there that confirm what I already thought (thanks to his work with Jan Bang in David Sylvian, through which I discovered him): that Erik Honoré could do well in a dance-club. I am glad he makes more meditating music, but it is great to have these deep, percussive sounds, from time to time.

 

The musicians then leave us after an encore rendition of "Sanctuary”, with Molvær's trumpet replacing Sidsel Endresen's magnificent vocals. It is an astonishing success of a song (and it is a pop-music nerd who is writing this), definitely one of the best songs released last year, and it is given a warm treatment, with great chord changes generated by sound sources impossible to trace, and it is perfectly set to end a concert.

 

Then, Per Martinsen, who was already on stage recording the sound of the concert, is given the full place to remix the music who have just heard, as per the principle on which the Punkt Festival is based. He has a great sense of narration that makes it very good fun (and can be heard below). Live remix is something that still needs to be explained to me. I understand (and enjoy) the concept, but have not quite figured out exactly how (and I guess it depends on every musician doing it) it is made

concretely. But it is the whole point of the sonic approach crafted by Erik Honoré and his colleagues, that blurs the frontiers between invention and assimilation, and offers a way of thinking how personal discourse is necessarily informed by the others. I am glad they exist, by themselves (and not just because they have worked with my idols David Sylvian and Christian Fennesz), and, according to what Erik Honoré told me at the end of these 3 days in Paris, it seems like a lot of exciting stuff is going to come from Kristiansand in the next couple of years. 

 

The first appointment is (again) a 3-days Punkt Festival in Donostia/San Sebastian, in the end of July, where Heliographs will be played (and remixed) once again, but with Sidsel Endresen replacing Nils Petter Molvær this time (and Arve Henriksen, Jan Bang, Suso Saiz replacing Per Martinsen for the live remix). It might offer again a new light on this music. I will definitely be there.


* The DPM Rating System
When we rate an album or concert etc we rate it on the "Huzzah!" system. A score can be between 1 and 3 huzzahs:
1 Huzzah! - The reviewer likes it. You should give it a listen!
2 Huzzah! - The reviewer recommends it - and is delighted it is part of his/her collection
3 Huzzah! - The reviewer strongly recommends it - and it has already entered heavy rotation on his/her personal playlists.

On rare occasions there may be a 0 Huzzah! review. The reasons will be explained in the article. On equally rare occasions you may even see a 4 Huzzah ... well explain that another time :)

We dont do negative reviews because we review what we like.



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